It’s the time of year when Kentucky’s hills blaze with yellows, oranges, and reds, as if this visual fire of autumn leaves can somehow offset the creeping nip in the morning air.
Fall is the best season to enjoy the woods: bugs disappear and the temperature is right. This is when hunters scout for white-tailed deer.
Scouting is nothing more than reading the woods to determine where these animals feed, sleep, and travel. Read the signs correctly and you’re more likely to see a deer. Even if you’re not a hunter, a little knowledge of deer behavior will help make your wildlife watching more successful.
Imagine the woods and fields as a house. Deer have bedroom areas, dining areas, and hallways. Bedroom areas are places deer hide during the day. They include cedar thickets and overgrown fields. Sometimes deer will bed down in the middle of standing cornfields or tall grass.
Look for oblong areas of compacted grass or weeds, a sign of a bedded deer.
Then there are the dining areas. Deer love acorns and will spend hours pawing the ground for them. To find acorns, search for oak trees along ridges and south-facing slopes. In the fall, most oaks are easy to spot from a distance because their leaves are reddish or brown. Oaks also hold onto their leaves long past other trees.
Other places to look for deer signs include corn and soybean fields. Look for dirt trails made by deer along the edges of these fields. Deer prefer to enter fields in corners and wherever the tree line is closest. You’re most likely to see deer traveling and feeding at daybreak and dusk.
Hallways are dirt paths linking sleeping and feeding areas. Follow a fence line or creek bank and you’ll find where deer cross. You can then pick up the trail.
Still having trouble spotting deer? Look along ridges and creek bottoms for trees that look like they’ve been whittled on—hunters call these “rubs”—and bathtub-sized patches of bare dirt and deer tracks, or a “scrape.” Both are signs bucks leave to advertise their availability to does.
Finally, always wear a bright orange hat and vest whenever you’re hunting for deer with a gun. That’s a sign of safety.
Learn to hunt safely by taking a free hunters’ education course this year. Call (800) 858-1549 for the next available time and location closest to you.